Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – January 2021
It is just over a year since I was sworn in as Crawley’s Member of Parliament for the fourth time.
While the history which is felt when standing in the House of Commons has often been replaced in recent months by using my laptop to take part in the chamber remotely, the responsibility I feel standing up for the concerns of Crawley residents is as strong as ever, indeed even more as we have faced the Covid-19 pandemic.
Crawley has been hit hard by the pandemic, particularly with the effect on our aviation sector which includes, but is not limited to, workers at Gatwick Airport.
While the closure of all travel corridors was a severe blow to the industry it was unfortunately a necessary measure to protect our country from new variants of Covid-19. What needs to happen now is support for this vital part of our economy.
Last week I led a cross-party approach of 86 MPs and Peers to the Prime Minister calling for further support for the aviation, travel and tourism industries in light of ongoing restrictions.
I am also calling for an early HM Treasury review of Air Passenger Duty to help the UK aviation sector recover.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust is the lead provider for the vaccination programme across our county and they are looking for people to take on paid and volunteer roles. Please click here for further information.
Education: One of the greatest impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the effect on our children and young people. Every parent knows the importance of education, which is why the Government undertook every action to keep schools open for all pupils.
This, of course, is not possible during the national lockdown, and this month I met with the Education Secretary to convey the concerns held by myself, parents and teachers in Crawley.
Review of 2020: Last year will be one we will never forget. In addition to supporting the NHS Funding Act and establishing a new parliamentary group I was struck by the community initiatives of people across our town in responding to the pandemic.
Open Doors World Watch List: One of the most moving events I attend each year takes place every January, when Open Doors launch the World Watch List. This is an annual report which details the countries around the world where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, and highlights the persecution people can face because of their faith.
The report found that 340 million Christians around the globe are persecuted for their faith. Not only is this 30 million more people than last year, but levels of persecution are also getting worse. Some Christians have faced discrimination connected to the pandemic, when seeking access to aid and personal protective equipment, and I highlighted this issue in Parliament shortly after the launch of the report.
Sussex Police: Government is increasing funding for policing to more than £15 billion in 2021-22, up by £636 million from this year. Sussex Police is set to receive an additional £18.1 million as part of this settlement.
Our force has been bolstered by an additional 129 officers since the Government launched its major recruitment drive, with a further 50 new officers being recruited by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne’s initiative.
Freeports: I support the bid for Manor Royal to become one of the Government’s new freeports, taking advantage of the UK’s recent international trade agreements and enabling Crawley’s economy greater potential to grow as well as further diversify.
Extra support in Crawley and West Sussex: The Covid Winter Grant Scheme will see councils across England share a total of £170 million in additional, ring-fenced funding to help vulnerable families and individuals, with West Sussex receiving a total of more than £1.9 million. For information on the West Sussex County Council Community Hub please visit: www.westsussex.gov.uk/covid19communityhub
The County Council will see its budget boosted by 5.4 per cent next year, as part of the Government’s commitment to level up local services across the country and give them the resources they need to support their communities as we recover from the pandemic.
Crawley Borough Council has received over £61 million in Government funding to meet the extra challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As well as going on direct support for Town Hall services, from housing to leisure and from refuse collection to parks, these funds are also used on business grants and discretionary funding schemes to help people across Crawley cope with pandemic pressures.
Employment support: Confirmation from the Employment Minister of a second Crawley Jobcentre and a Department for Work & Pensions response hub at Gatwick Airport being opened to help get local people back into work following the stark economic impact of Covid-19.
Ask for ANI: Victims of domestic abuse are now able to access support from local pharmacies as part of the Ask for ANI scheme. The scheme will allow those at risk or suffering from abuse in the local area to discreetly use a recognised codeword to signal that they need help and access to support.
If you are unable to reach your local pharmacy and in need of help go to GOV.UK for information on support services and helplines available, or call the 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247.
Violence Against Women and Girls: The Government is updating the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and has launched a nationwide Call for Evidence in order to ensure that those who have lived experiences of abuse and violence, and the views of members of the public, are at the heart of plans to stop these harmful crimes. The Call to Evidence runs until 19th February 2021.
Global Britain: Welcoming the work of the Department for International Trade and highlighted other areas in which the UK can chart its own course outside of the EU.
In addition to welcoming the Government’s negotiation of trade agreements covering 63 nations and the European Union, I spoke about the ways in which Britain can use its world standing to address issues such as human rights, climate change and education.
Human rights: Questioning the Foreign Secretary about the importance of UK leadership on the global stage to counter the human rights abuses of the Chinese government in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet.
Mental Health Act reforms: Seeking assurances that schools will be part of Government’s improvements to this legislation.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley